back to article Smiley celebrates 25th birthday

The "digital smiley" - a cunning series of keystrokes which gave rise to the ubiquitous emoticon - is today celebrating its 25th birthday. That's according to Carnegie Mellon University professor Scott E. Fahlman, who says that at 11:44 am on 19 September 1982, during an electronic bulletin board discussion about "the limits of …


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  1. Gareth Irwin

    The art of tossing

    The man has got it up to ten minutes, he deserves respect

  2. Les Matthew

    Re: The art of tossing

    You can always rely on Lester to pull it off.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A nice misquote

    "I tossed off in 10 minutes to something that has spread all around the world." Well at least this is better than something spreading around the world as a result of him tossing off.

  4. Neil Jones

    Special Edition

    Can I suggest we mark this anniversary and this memorable quote with a brand new smiley?


  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Heard a radio interview ...

    ... where the interviewer asked if Mr Fahlman'd have :-( on his gravestone. I think

    X-P would be better ...

  6. Ian O'Friel


    Shouldn't the Smiley have a party hat on ?


  7. Jane

    Smileys are much older than that

    My mother was a typist in the 1930-40s. She remembers using them in the office then - not in official correspondence, though.

  8. Steven Davison



    every Party needs a clown...

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It wouldnt be a party

    without the ladies


  10. Law

    RE: It wouldnt be a party

    wow - you rock!!

    That is now officially my favorite smilie EVERY!! ;)

  11. Sceptical Bastard

    An elderly IT pedant protests...

    Quote: "Carnegie Mellon University professor Scott E. Fahlman... at 11:44 am on 19 September 1982...made the fateful suggestion... (of a) character sequence for joke markers."

    He might have sent the claimed email at that precise time. But he wasn't the first with the electronic smiley (let alone the mechanical typist's smiley).

    In April 1979 - over three years earlier - a guy named MacKenzie posted an email to MsgGroup (the unofficial community on ARPAnet which was instrumental in formulating email standards and protocols and whose most prominent member was Dave Crocker) posted a suggestion that by playing with punctuation in email one could more easily convey subtleties such as sarcastic or tongue-in-cheek content.

    MacKenzie proposed using a hyphen and parenthesis thus -) He also freely acknowledged that he'd cribbed the idea from an article in Reader's Digest.

    Of course, quite a few of the MsgGroup's members were at Carnegie-Mellon. So it is, perhaps, surprising that Scott Fahlman seems to have missed MacKenzie's contribution and the minor flame war it precipitated.

    I vaguely remember to seeing quoted a passing reference to 'extended punctuation sets' in a RFC. Buggered if I can remember where or when - anyone who can be arsed could search it out here:

    And lest younger Vultures think I am an old fart, I can still toss off in under ten minutes ;)

  12. Jamie Davis

    Best geek headstone...

    I saw was plain granite with "</life>" written on it

  13. Ian Ferguson

    Re: Older

    Yes, the smiley is much older than computers, I've seen pages of what is essentially ASCII art but created with a typewriter (including cunning use of the backspace and halfspace to put multiple characters in the same area). I'm pretty sure it included smileys as we know them.

    They won't known as smileys, of course - but am I right in thinking that 'smiley' is a trademarked name for the trademarked yellow smiley face? Which is why commercial chat applications offer 'emoticons' and other such pseudonyms.

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